New Delhi: The finance ministry on Tuesday extended the deadline for ministries to submit independent evaluations of the schemes they ran in the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-12), but it may be difficult to prune the programmes with the budget close at hand.
The continuation of these programmes in the second year (2013-14) of the 12th Five Year Plan was contingent on the appraisals.
The date has been extended to 31 March from 31 December as most ministries had failed to meet the deadline. The deadline has been extended because of the delay in the finalization of 12th Plan outlays, the finance ministry said.
The Planning Commission had recommended extending the deadline until 31 December and implementing the proposal from the third year of the Plan period, starting April 2014, said Pronab Sen, country head, International Growth Centre and former principal adviser in the Planning Commission.
“It will be difficult for the finance ministry to allocate funds for individual schemes for the next fiscal as the budget numbers have to be frozen by 15 February while the review results are now expected by 31 March,” he said.
Expenditure and finance secretary R.S. Gujral and Planning Commission secretary Sindhushree Khullar couldn’t be reached for comment. Emails sent to their official accounts remained unanswered at the time of going to the press.
Chidambaram, who is set to present the national budget on 28 February, faces the unenviable task of balancing the urgent need for fiscal consolidation with the temptation to announce populist measures ahead of the general election scheduled for 2014.
The threat from rating agencies such as Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service to downgrade the country’s sovereign rating to junk status, citing growing fiscal risks and loss of growth momentum, makes the balancing act that much more difficult. While finance ministry officials have been expressing confidence that the fiscal deficit can be reined in at 5.3% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the current fiscal ending 31 March and have pegged it at 4.8% of GDP for 2013-14, analysts have expressed doubts about these estimates.
The National Development Council, which comprises the chief ministers of all states and key central cabinet ministers, approved the 12th Plan (2012-17) on 27 December. India usually implements the five-year plan from the second year of the plan period as it takes that much time for it to be finalized. The finance ministry had ordered the revision of plan schemes to explore the possibilities of some of them with overlapping objectives being merged.
“It is often seen that there is inadequate synergy or a lack of synergy between various ministries, resulting in duplication of efforts and sub-optimal utilization of government resources. It is important that unnecessary creation of establishment and thin spread of resources is avoided. Further, there needs to be constant interaction between various ministries to avoid wasteful duplication of efforts,” the finance ministry had said in a December 2011 notification.
Before the continuation of schemes in the 12th Plan is approved, they have to be subjected to evaluation by an independent, impartial and reputed agency and the reports put through rigorous scrutiny with regard to performance in the 11th Plan.
The finance ministry has also asked all ministries to dovetail Aadhaar unique identity numbers with the delivery mechanism for centrally sponsored schemes for identification and authentication of beneficiaries.
“Such linkage would need to be built both for new schemes as well as existing schemes,” the ministry said in the December 2011 notification.